The American Cancer Society and the Michigan Department of Community Health are marking the 37th Great American Smokeout on Nov. 15 by encouraging smokers to use the date to make a plan to quit, or to plan in advance and quit smoking that day.
By doing so, smokers will be taking an important step towards a healthier life - one that can lead to reducing cancer risk.
Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in Michigan, yet according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23.3 percent of adult Michiganders still use tobacco.
However, more than half of tobacco users have tried to quit for at least one day during the past year. Because tobacco products are highly addictive, most users make several quit attempts before they are successful.
"I highly encourage all smokers who are considering quitting to participate in the Great American Smokeout by making a plan to quit smoking, even if past attempts to quit have been unsuccessful," said James K. Haveman, Director of the MDCH.
"While it may be hard or take a few tries, quitting smoking is one of the very best things that you can do for your health," Haveman said in a statement.
Research shows that while quitting is difficult for most tobacco users, people who use tobacco can increase their success in quitting with help.
Quitters are most successful when using a combination of therapies, including resources such as nicotine replacement, counseling, self-help materials, and a strong support network of family and friends.
Resources available to Michigan residents include:
- The MDCH Tobacco Quitline, (800) 784-8669, continues to provide free telephone coaching for the uninsured and those with Medicaid and Medicare, and free nicotine replacement medications for those who qualify. Information about quitting smoking and a free printable Michigan Smoker's Quit Kit are available through MDCH by visiting www.michigan.gov/tobacco.
- BecomeAnEX.org is a free, interactive website that shows smokers how to re-learn life without cigarettes. The site, developed by Legacy in partnership with Mayo Clinic, offers a free, personalized quit plan and an online support community to help people prepare to quit and stay quit.
"Although there's no one right way to quit that works for everyone, there are some key elements that can help put you on the road to living a longer and healthier life, whether you're a smoker or you use another form of tobacco," adds Alicia Gardner, American Cancer Society Health Initiatives director for greater Michigan. "No matter how old you are or how long you've smoked, quitting can help you live longer and be healthier."
Consider these stay-quit tips from the American Cancer Society.
- Set a date. Picking a "quit day" is a critical first step. It's best to pick a date within the next month, so you allow enough time to prepare and create a plan but not enough time to change your mind. You might want to join thousands of other people across the country in choosing Nov. 15, the date of the American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout as your quit day or the day you make a plan to quit for good. Then be sure to tell your friends and family which day you've chosen so they can help support you and hold you accountable. Download a free Smokeout countdown clock for your computer desktop at cancer.org/smokeout with tips to help you prepare for your quit day.
- Make a plan. Successfully quitting is a matter of planning and commitment, not luck. Many smokers prefer to quit cold turkey on their quit day, while others try to smoke fewer cigarettes leading up to their quit day to slowly reduce the amount of nicotine in their body and reduce withdrawal symptoms. Decide what works best for you, whether it's nicotine replacement or other medicines, joining a stop-smoking class, going to Nicotine Anonymous meetings, using self-help materials such as books and pamphlets, or some combination of these methods.
- Once your plan is in place, start working on small changes like discarding cigarettes and ashtrays in your home and car, stocking up on oral substitutes like sugarless gum and hard candy or carrot sticks, and practice saying, "No thank you, I don't smoke," when offered a cigarette. Of course, it's very important to set up a support system through a group program or a friend or family member who has successfully quit and will help you through the difficult days ahead.
- Don't smoke on your quit day. Don't take even one puff. Keep your mind and body occupied by exercising or losing yourself in an enjoyable hobby, and avoid situations where the urge to smoke is strong (this may include avoiding alcohol). You may need to change up your routine by taking a different route to work, eating breakfast in a different place, or eating different foods. It will take time to unlink smoking from your daily activities, and even if you are using a nicotine replacement you may still have strong urges to smoke. Find more tips to help you through this critical day at cancer.org/smokeout.
- Avoid rationalizations. "I'll have just one cigarette to get me through this situation" "Everyone dies of something" "How bad is smoking, really?" Write down rationalizations as they come up and recognize them as messages that can trick you into going back to smoking. Be ready with a distraction to redirect your thoughts to something else. You can download a free "craving stopper" application at cancer.org/smokeout to help distract yourself with a memory match game or find more tips to help when a craving hits.
- Bounce back from slips. A slip is a one-time mistake that is quickly corrected; a relapse is going back to smoking. While it may be tempting to use a slip as an excuse to go back to your old ways, you also can look at what went wrong and renew your commitment. Try not to get too discouraged - very few people are able to quit for good on the first try. Use what you learn from the slip to make a stronger quitting attempt next time.
Quitting is hard, but you can increase your chances of success with help. Join the American Cancer Society for the Great American Smokeout on Nov. 15.